A few years ago, upon buying a house in need of more than a little TLC, my husband and I became proud owners of an overgrown and out of control flower bed. Flower bed being a gracious stretch of terms.
I walked by the eye-sore that bordered my sidewalk for almost an entire year, trying to ignore it. Apologizing for it every time someone came to visit.
But March of that year ushered in some much-needed inspiration. Not knowing where to begin, I donned my gardening gloves and just simply began. Cutting back, cutting away, and digging. And digging. And more digging.
Finally, the front flower beds were free of all plant life.
With one exception: nut sedge
The vilest of all weeds. In fact, if it had grown in and around Judea while Jesus walked the earth, I am certain He would have mentioned it in one of His parables about the depths of evil.
But back to my flower beds.
I pulled nut sedge out of the ground until my buckets were overflowing.
Hubby: “It’s just going to come back.”
Me: “What?! Why?!”
Hubby: “You’re not getting to its roots. You gotta get that little ball of roots out.”
With a small spade in hand and determination in my head, I dug those little succors out, one by one. Every little earthen ball. I dug and tilled, and then some more, until the bed was free of any hint of the devilish weed. It was hard work. I wanted to quit. I wanted to say eh…good enough. But I persevered.
With the soil loose and free, I planted my beautiful new plants, fertilizing each as I tucked them in. Stepping back to gain perspective, a smile found my heart and my face. Delight. Satisfaction.
For the following few weeks, I was careful to water as needed, giving the plants my full attention. Each morning I would sit on the front porch, basking in the early spring sun, sipping my coffee, admiring the fruit of my labor and the glory of God’s creation.
And then I saw it. Them.
Tiny hints of green in unwanted varieties! Nut sedge was everywhere!
Frantically, I grabbed my spade, pushed aside the mulch, and started digging. Again. One by one I pulled the weeds, desperate to get to the root of each and pull it out of the soil of my garden.
As I knelt in the soil, digging and pulling, a weight fell on my heart.
The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”JEREMIAH 17:9-10 (MSG)
Hopelessly dark and deceitful. Sounds like a place for weeds to abound.
I didn’t have to ponder too long before I could see the weeds that might be lurking in the garden of my heart and mind, even though my heart is quite content to deceive me. While there may be a certain beauty blooming, just one tiny weed of envy is all it takes for me to compare myself to someone else, trading my joy for petty-mindedness. One blade of anger can blow up into an all-out verbal attack on an inconsiderate driver, yet again trading my joy for stress, soon followed by shame. One sliver of greed distorts my vision so that all I can see is myself, rather than seeing an opportunity to help meet the needs of others.
Yeah. My heart’s not always pretty.
And the only way to keep an eye out for the weeds lurking in my heart is to conduct a daily examination. Yes. A daily examination. Sin doesn’t wait until tomorrow. I must search for any signs of the weeds of greed or envy or anger. And my assessment that can’t rationalize my sin. Nor trim it back. Nor try to hide the evidence. When I find even a hint, I must full on dig it out by the roots and tubers it uses to take over my heart!
I know that my heart was made for joy. Love. Truth. And grace. But the enemies of my heart sneak in and plant themselves in the untended places. And if I am not careful, the enemies win. I no longer choose joy because my heart is full of other things. I won’t feel loved or be loving. I won’t receive or give truth, nor grace. The enemies choke out all the things for which my heart was intended to grow. And I may be tempted to ignore the enemies, make excuses for them, or perhaps rationalize them away.
So friends, here’s to tending the gardens of our hearts. Pulling the weeds. Allowing joy, love, truth, and grace to bloom abundantly!
Guard your heart above all else,[a] for it is the source of life.PROVERBS 4:23, CSB